New Report from Cooke Foundation Finds State Policies Fail Bright, Low-Income Students

LANSDOWNE, VA – State policies nationwide fail effectively to support students who have the potential to reach high levels of academic performance, particularly students from low-income backgrounds, finds a new report from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. Equal Talents, Unequal Opportunities: A Report Card on State Support for Academically Talented Low-Income Students grades states on 18 simple indicators representing nine distinct state-level policies and nine specific measures of student outcomes. Not one state receives an A.

“We were not especially hard graders, and sadly we still found that in most states, attention to advanced learning opportunities for low-income students is nearly absent,” said Executive Director Harold O. Levy. “What is available for high-ability students primarily benefits those in wealthier school districts. The lost potential is staggering.”

Previous research has found economically disadvantaged students are less likely than high-income students to reach advanced levels of academic performance, despite having equal abilities and starting in the same place. This Excellence Gap first appears in elementary school and continues throughout a student’s academic career.

To shed light on the Excellence Gap and raise awareness of the need for better strategies to support students across the country, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation’s groundbreaking study examined state-level interventions intended to foster academic achievement among low-income students, with the goal of identifying policies that could be implemented more widely.

“At stake is the vibrancy of our economy, our nation’s future prosperity, the strength of our global competitiveness and basic fairness. If states were to implement these commonsense policies to close the Excellence Gap, we would unleash the potential of millions of bright young Americans whose natural talents and intelligence will shape our nation for generations to come,” added Levy.

To view the complete report, visit To learn more about the Excellence Gap, visit

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation is dedicated to advancing the education of exceptionally promising students who have financial need. By offering the largest scholarships in the country, comprehensive counseling and other support services to students from 7th grade to graduate school, the Foundation is dedicated to ensuring high-performing, low-income students have the support necessary to develop their talents and excel educationally. In addition to its scholarship programs, the Foundation provides grants for innovative, high-impact initiatives that benefit such students. By doing so, the Cooke Foundation seeks to use its resources to end the Excellence Gap, the disparity between the number of low and high income students who reach the top levels of academic performance. Founded in 2000, the Foundation has awarded $130 million in scholarships to 1,900 students and over $80 million in grants.